Goa, having been ruled by the Portuguese, still follows some traditions from when it was a colony. One of the most popular festivals of Goa is the vibrant and fun festival called Carnival or Carnaval. The 4-day annual festival is held sometime between mid February to early March before the solemn period of Lent begins. This year the carnival is going to be held from 18th to 21st Feb 2023.
The carnival starts on a Saturday and the first day is reserved for the capital city of Panjim. Then it proceeds to the other major commercial city of Margao. (Schedule below). Entry is free for all.
Significance of the name
The word Carnaval is derived from Latin - "carn" meaning meat and "vale" meaning goodbye. So the name literally signifies the giving up of red meat during Lent.
Slowly, it changed to Carnival, but the other names it is known by are Intruz and Entrado. It is likened to Mardi Gras or the Rio Carnival.
Elaborate themed floats parade the street with performances by the locals. The procession includes dancers, musicians, masked entities and people in costumes enthralling the crowd. The parade is led by Carnival King Momo and his grand float.
Years ago, when the festival wasn't commercialised yet, the people of São Tomé and Fontainhas celebrated People's Carnival in the narrow lanes during the evening and headed to the streets near Panjim Church to enjoy the Red and Black dance. As the name suggests, everyone had to show up in red and/or black outfits, and would dance the night away.
Each day of the carnival takes place in different cities across Goa. The schedule of Goa Carnival 2023 looks like this:
18th Feb - Panjim
19th Feb - Margao and Quepem
20th Feb - Vasco and Curchorem
21st Feb - Mapusa and Morjim
It usually starts around 3 pm and goes on till 6 or 7 pm.
Since the festival is now commercialisation, some of the floats are sponsored so you'll find companies displaying logo and products. But by large they've tried to keep it local. You'll find local dances like the kunbi dance and regional activities like toddy tapping being displayed. Many floats also have social messages.
The Red and Black dance still takes place at Samba Square. There's an entry fee of Rs. 100 charged. Here, you'll find stalls put up serving delicacies and drinks while bands will perform keeping you entertained.
1. Reach as early as possible. There's very limited seating near the Panjim Secretariat which fills up quickly. Everyone else along the path has to stand and it's on first come first served basis.
2. Carry water and stay hydrated because the carnival starts in the afternoon and when summer is beginning so it'll be hot. You can also carry snacks if you feel that you might get hungry.
3. Brace yourself to stand for a long period since the carnival goes on for a couple of hours
4. If you're not checking out the carnival, it's preferable you don't take any arterial road leading to it. Since the main path will be blocked, traffic will be diverted to the connecting roads, leading to traffic jams.
5. If you're in town but want to avoid the crowds, leave the city by 1 or 2 pm, which is when the road closures will come into effect.
And main point to keep in mind, HAVE FUN!